Mistero Buffo (4 stars)

This article is from 2018

Mistero Buffo

Political rage meets Le Coq

Dario Fo's script – itself a particularly Italian rage against the machinery of Catholic corruption – depicts a mythical era which fuses aspects of Biblical, medieval and modern times to argue that the jongleur is the teller of truth to power and that the message of Christ has been corrupted by the practice of Christianity. Rhum and Clay have become Fringe favourites due to their Le Coq physical stylings and ensemble energy, but Buffo draws attention to the skills of artistic director Julian Spooner.

Fo's concern are largely Italian and Catholic – the condemnations of the miracles as celebrity events, the self-interest of the spectators and a Jesus who prefers to party than preach – and Spooner adds a few contemporary details in his costume while largely filtering the words through a highly emphatic gestural display. It is a masterful display, leaping between characters and infusing Buffo with a righteous rage and a manic playfulness. The final, despairing rejection of Christ's sacrifice speaks of a cynicism about the human capacity for good even though Buffo represents resistance through optimism and laughter. Spooner admirably handles this tension, bringing out the script's sincerity and intensity.

Since its premiere in 1969, Buffo became Fo's signature solo, but Spooner performance both emphasises his skill and pays respect to the tradition of jongleur that inspired Fo. Nicholas Pitt's direction is fast-paced, with subtle touches – a rendition of 'Seven Nation Army' to the words 'Jesus of Nazareth', the bright green Deliveroo jacket and bag – adding to the timelessness of his sermons. Far from blasphemous, it is a passionate attempt to rediscover the humanity of Christ, to tune into a message of redemption without ignoring its commodification by the powerful or the difficulties of righteousness in a fallen world.

Underbelly Cowgate, until 26 Aug, 7.20pm, £13 (£12).

Mistero Buffo

  • 4 stars

Rhum and Clay Theatre Company Award-winning and critically acclaimed company Rhum and Clay bring to the stage Dario Fo's seminal master piece, Mistero Buffo – a daring and explosive rallying cry for the disenfranchised. A travelling storyteller, another employee of the gig economy, rushes from his last delivery of the day…